Happy Holidays!

December 26, 2012

It's the end of another year, and I sincerely hope that everyone is enjoying this holiday season...

As I take time off with my family, one thing that I always like to do in some of my spare time is take stock on what I've read throughout the year, to reflect on what I've read and how these books have influenced my thinking. A few of the books I read this year are actually re-reads, like The Goal (I read this a number of years ago, but it's still a great book and very applicable today).

It's always great to read books because you benefit from the experiences and perspectives of others. There isn't enough time in one lifetime to accumulate the information and wisdom that you can get from books. Granted, you need to supplement your own thinking and experience things for yourself, but I certainly like to be informed and have some things in my back pocket to try. It can save you a lot of wasted time and aggravation.

Initiate Change, but Don’t Drive It

December 19, 2012

I’ve recently been examining culture and how agile experiences can be very new experiences for many organizations. On a personal level it is all too easy to adopt the attitude that change is for “the other person” (or department, or division…). When it comes to organizational change, persistent effort over time coupled with consistency is required so that change is not viewed as another management “the flavor of the month.”

You can begin an agile adoption as “something the development teams do,” but as their understanding of agile deepens and their proficiency increases, there will be an increasing need for the rest of the organization to transform to agile. Without this transformation, your agile adoption will either be a watered down agile implementation (sorry, I couldn’t resist the bad pun) or continually at risk of being pulled back to old ways of thinking and working.

In order for lasting change to occur, we must be open to having new experiences, willing to reflect on how our current mental models just might be filled with assumptions rather than facts. We have to be willing to change what we believe. This is why I feel that it is important to initiate change instead of driving change.

Driving change is problematic because people tend to resist being changed by others. People don’t react well when change is imposed. They need to be invited into the conversation about the need for change, what the change looks like and why the change is beneficial. And they most likely will need to make changes slowly, a little at a time.

Simple Advice that Saves Time and Avoids Frustration

December 12, 2012

And it is pretty simple: Shut up and listen!

In my last post on Three Simple Questions That Foster Great Collaboration, I stated that immediately after asking one of those three questions, it was important to listen. The part about shutting up was implicit. However, I found a great TED Talk by Ernesto Sirolli titled,Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! that drives the point home.

Sirolli starts his talk with a humorous story on his well-intended, but misguided efforts he experienced in his youth to bring aid to Africa, teaching Zambian people how to grow food in what he and his compatriots found to be a very fertile valley. They were mystified that the local people had no interest in agriculture – to the point where they resorted to paying them. And even then the locals weren’t interested in showing up.

Why was such disinterest displayed by people for something that was clearly for their own good? The reason became abundantly clear one night – just as the crops had grown out perfectly and changing the, “Thank God we're here!” attitude of Sirolli and his group to one of surprise and leading them to ask, “Why didn’t you tell us?” (Watch the video to find out what happened.)

Three Simple Questions That Foster Great Collaboration

December 5, 2012

Agile development is a highly collaborative approach, both in terms of developing of the software and in reflecting on what is working and what needs improvement. And because software development also involves decision-making every step of the way (from the requirements and their prioritization to systems architecture to detailed implementation in code to tools to testing, and so on...), anyone involved with agile teams needs great interaction skills in order for teams to be great.

We need the ability to question and explore another person’s thinking, to raise issues or concerns about the team’s direction, and to constructively challenge each others’ thinking. We need the ability to have an open, honest dialog where people feel respected and safe.